Friday, October 30, 2020

Sharing Our Stories & #52Stories 41/52: Words I Ran From!

It's been more than four decades since Aunt Melisia uttered the scary words to me at a family reunion. I have never forgotten them. I've been running from them for years. But it's been only recently that I find myself remembering and embracing them with a smile.
Every Sunday before Labor Day our family made an annual trip to Platt National Park (now known as the Chickasaw National Recreation Area) in Sulphur, Oklahoma for a Scifres family reunion. It was anticipated with an excitement bordering on Christmas morning. It's the only time that we saw many members of my dad's very large family. He had fifteen siblings and twelve of them grew to adulthood. And some of his siblings had large families. The first reunion was held in 1959. I can't think of these reunions without reflecting on the people who made up our large and very talkative clan. 
Aunt Melisia was seventeen years older than my dad. She was the seventh and last child born to the union of my grandfather, Andrew T. Scifres and Sarah Smith. Aunt Melisia was born in February 1895 and her mother died in July of that year. My grandfather married Martha Ada Young (my grandmother) on November 26, 1899.

By the time that I remember attending the reunions, my dad's oldest sister, Aunt Mary, had stopped coming due to mobility issues. But we always stopped in Ada, Oklahoma to visit Aunt Mary on our way to the reunion. Aunt Melisia was the oldest sister at the reunion and she presided with a regal air that commanded respect.
It was sometime during my college years that Aunt Melisia uttered the words that have stayed with me and that I ran from for years. I was proud that I had finally reached goal weight at Weight Watchers. 
I looked forward to showing off my new body, but then Aunt Melisia uttered these words, "Don't worry, honey, you'll plump up one of these days."
And you know what? I have! And finally after decades of being a WW member, I stopped. I'm working at loving and accepting myself just as I am. And I'm okay with that.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Slice of Life & #52Stories 40/52: Bookish Thoughts

#52Stories is my attempt to write 52 stories from my life during the year 2020. At least one story a week, in no particular order, to remember and document some of the memories and moments of my life.

 If you've spent any time at all with me (IRL or on the blog), then you know that books are an important, no, make that essential, part of my life. I've struggled a bit the past few months with a reading slump, but I'd like to mention several books I've discovered during this time.

The first was our book club read for the month of October, A Place for Us. I loved this exploration of a Muslim family, parental love, and family connections.  Before I returned it to the library, I copied pages of quotes.  Perhaps I should have just bought the book, but I'm trying hard to downsize my book collection. 

The next book, one that I read several months ago, broke my pandemic reading slump. Harry's Trees, has that perfect touch of magical realism. I'm a tree lover from way back. I think I first heard this book discussed on the podcast, What Should I Read Next? And I'm so glad it finally made its way to my holds shelf at the library. 

The next book that I want to share is one that I haven't quite finished, but I'm close enough to know that it will earn a place on my list of books I've loved in 2020. It's Renee Watson's middle grade book, Some Places More Than Others. Main character Amara's trip to New York City and her efforts to understand and discover the family she's never known struck a home run with me. It ties in so well with my own efforts to understand and connect the strands of my own family.

And that brings me to the final book I want to share. I haven't read it yet, but it's important to me because I inherited it from Great Aunt Becky, my grandmother's sister. Published in 1942, it's a historical novel, a genre I love. It earned a spot on the NYT bestseller list in October 1942. Four weeks later, it rose to number one and stayed there for nearly a year. I'm not sure how I ended up with the book except that as a self-described bookworm, someone thought I would enjoy it (probably my mom).

The inscription shows that it was a Christmas gift in 1947 to Aunt Fannie (age 67 that year) from my Great Aunt Palmyra, Great Aunt Becky's sister.  As I've spent more time exploring our family, I found Aunt Fannie on the family tree. She is a sister to my great grandmother, Mary Ann Wilson. Mary Ann is the 2nd child and Fannie is the 7th child of the 11 children born to my great great grandparents, John B. Wilson and Mariah Catherine Kemp. Aunt Fannie was born in Arkansas, had eight children of her own, spent time in Oklahoma, was listed in Chaves, New Mexico on the 1940 census, and died in 1957 at the age of 79 in Modesto, California. Perhaps I should see if I could locate any of Aunt Fanny's posterity and see if they want the book. But before I do, I want to read it. I like thinking about Aunt Fanny turning the pages and knowing that Aunt Pal had probably also read the book. Are you wondering about the title of the book? It's an old classic by Lloyd C. Douglas. 

I don't have any pictures of Great Great Aunt Fannie, but maybe I'll post the pic of the book and inscription in the Memories section of Family search on her page. Here's a pic of my great aunts, Palmyra and Rebecca (sisters to my grandmother, Ella Martin Duff). I have always thought they were very elegant women!

Friday, October 23, 2020

#52Stories 39/52 & Sharing Our Stories: My Aunt Nan

#52Stories is my attempt to write 52 stories from my life during the year 2020. At least one story a week, in no particular order, to remember and document some of the memories and moments of my life.

Aunt Nan, my mom's younger sister, was one of those people who always had a smile on her face and laughter in her heart. Going to Aunt Nan's house (two hours from where we lived for most of my life) was an adventure. Maybe because she had no children of her own, we were totally indulged when we visited her. From the frosted glasses in the freezer (ready for root beer floats) to the always full candy dish on the kitchen table, her house was an invitation to happiness. 

I read a lot while at her house. She had a large red Bible story book that I loved. I liked to imagine myself as the little blonde girl sitting on the lap of Jesus. As I began to read more on my own, I devoured the Reader's Digest Condensed Books on Aunt Nan and Uncle Jim's bookshelves. 

I still remember the summer my brother and I visited for a week. We watched more TV than we ever did at home. I have vague memories of watching scary shows that terrified me for a long time. Our favorite sandwich was a fried Spam sandwich (dipped in egg and flour before frying) served on white Wonder bread with ketchup. We took the bus home and I remember Aunt Nan packing lunches for the bus trip back to our hometown. 

There was something exotic about Aunt Nan and Uncle Jim. They belonged to fraternal groups and square danced in groups that included matching outfits for everyone. They had a movie camera before anyone else in the family did. Aunt Nan worked at a Chinese restaurant where all the waitresses wore brocade Chinese jackets with frog closures and she made many of them for her fellow workers. There was a small stuffed alligator on the headboard of their bed that used to scare me to death when I'd wake up from a nap. 

My aunt used to tell the story of my sister's wedding day (on my fourth birthday!). When she asked my mom how she could help, my mom  replied, " Take this whining child (me) off my hands."

So Aunt Nan took me and my brother to a drugstore where she explained that it was my birthday. They stuck a candle in a pink snowball cupcake which just made me even sadder. "I don't want a cupcake with one candle, I want a big birthday cake with four candles." 

Sometimes when we visited Aunt Nan and she had a split shift at the Ricsha restaurant, we would go with her to work. Sometimes we visited the Lewis Meyer Bookstore on the corner of 34th and Peoria. Sometimes we went to the movies at the Brookside Theater, where I fondly remember seeing "The Sound of Music." Sometimes we passed the time in the restaurant waiting for Aunt Nan's shift to end. But the big bag of broken fortune cookies was always a favorite take home treat from any visit to Aunt Nan's workplace.

When it was time for my student teaching experience, I was assigned to Jenks, Oklahoma (a suburb of Tulsa). My friend, Julie, was assigned to a Tulsa school. We lived with Aunt Nan and Uncle Jim. Aunt Nan loved watching our busy evenings as Julie prepped for her elementary school classroom and I prepped for a 9th grade English classroom. One problem from this time! I didn't have a car, so Aunt Nan loaned me her pale yellow Cadillac to drive to my teaching assignment. Since I had grown up in a small town in southeastern Oklahoma, I didn't have much experience driving on freeways. I was grateful for Aunt Nan's generosity, but petrified as I set out each day in her mammoth yellow beast. I breathed a huge sigh of relief as I pulled into her driveway at the end of each teaching day.

While we were student teaching, Aunt Nan prepared our meals including a breakfast fit for any farmhand. She was always surprised that Julie and I rarely had the time or the appetite to consume the large breakfasts she prepared. It was during this time that we boarded with her that she undertook to teach Julie and me how to cut up a chicken, a skill she saw as necessary for any young woman about to graduate from college and embark in the world. Aunt Nan already had the beginnings of Parkinson's disease, but she pulled and tugged on the chicken and told us where to cut. I believe she felt that she'd done the best she could by us, but I can report that I never cut up another chicken. 

My last memory of Aunt Nan occurred shortly before my wedding. I stopped by the nursing home with one of her favorite meals from Long John Silver's. It took a long time, but she loved every tiny morsel that I fed to her. And of course, we laughed as we spent this cherished time together. I was unable to attend her funeral since she died the day before my wedding and I was across the country in Washington DC. Despite the nearly four decades that have passed since then, precious memories linger of my Aunt Nan.

To savor the magic of story, link your post at Sharing Our Stories.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Why I Write: 2019 Post Revisited (2020 Additions in Blue)

 I write because I found my peeps at Two Writing Teachers, a community of fellow teacher writers. I wish I could say that I love writing, but it's not the case. Given the choice, to read or to write, I'll pick reading every time. Even today after writing almost every week for eight nine years, I must prod myself to pick up the computer and craft a slice. I continue to be envious of my writer friends who love to write. Without the friends I've discovered through blogging, I fear I wouldn't write much.

I write to capture the beauty of our world. Sometimes my words don't  do justice to that beauty. So I snap and share pictures beside my words.

I write to try to figure out our world in all its complicated messiness Little did I know, a year ago, how complicated and messy and challenging our world would become in 2020.

I write to discover more about myself.  This year, I've been writing to discover and remember more about my family with my #52stories project.

I write to share my joy of books. Always!

I write to reflect on my journey as a daughter of God. If you'd like to explore your spiritual journey, join our Spiritual Journey Thursday group. We write on the first Thursday of each month.

I write to explore the adventure of being Grandma to three marvelous grand boys and one delightful grand girl.

I write because your words on the page inspire me! Your words prod and poke and provoke me to put my fingers to the keyboard and add my voice every single week. Thanks for the journey, dear friends!

It’s Slice of Life Tuesday!
Click over to Two Writing Teachers to read more slices!

Thursday, October 15, 2020

SOS & #52Stories 38/52: Fall Food, Friends' Recipes, and a Family Quote!

#52Stories is my attempt to write 52 stories from my life during the year 2020. At least one story a week, in no particular order, to remember and document some of the memories and moments of my life.

I can't think of fall and fall food without recalling a favorite tradition when I went away to college. Almost every time I came home there would be a pot of stew staying warm on the back burner and a pan of cornbread to accompany the tantalizing soul-filling warmth of Mama's beef stew. I  rarely make Mama's beef stew, but a favorite family soup at our house is Jolene's Chicken and Rice Soup. It appears frequently on our menu as cooler weather arrives. I love that favorite recipes come with names of family and friends attached. Several decades ago, I complained because Mama's cornbread recipe had buttermilk in it, something I rarely had on hand. And that's when my sister Kay shared her cornbread recipe and it's been my go-to ever since. No need for buttermilk or even to add vinegar to make sweet milk sour. It our family favorite!

You can tell fall weather is here when you glance at my dinner tray.

Another family favorite is Lori Day's Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread. My mama used to say: "If I had a five dollar bill for every Yum Yum Cake (otherwise known as Texas Sheet Cake) I've baked in my life, I would be a rich woman." Well, I think I can say the same about every loaf of Lori's Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread that I've baked. It freezes well and is great to have on hand to share with friends or tuck into the latest care package headed to the post office for family or friends. 

Do you have names of friends attached to your favorite recipes too?

To savor the magic of story, link your post at Sharing Our Stories.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Searching for Goodness!

 It's true! There's nothing that lifts the spirits faster than searching for goodness.

Just this morning . . .

I read The Ghosts Went Floating three times before taking three year old grandson to pre-school. I dare you to read this one without singing it to the tune of "The Ants Go Marching."

I discovered why 18 month old grandson's name for the book Extra Yarn is Duke! 

My daughter was Booed! and received a plate of goodies at their front door with an invite to pass the fun along.

My daughter's friend, Jaime, popped by and we talked picture books through the window. Jaime, daughter Sara, and I share a love of children's literature.

Robby and I discovered a beautifully spun, glistening web in the rosebushes on the way back to the car after dropping Jack at preschool.

And all of this goodness was discovered before 9:30 am. 
How about you? What goodness have you discovered today? 

Friday, October 2, 2020

Day 2 Family Connections 21 Day Experiment & #52Stories 37/52

In May I participated in my first Family Connections Experiment. It was a joy-filled time of learning and sharing. And so, when a new 21 Day Experiment for Family History Month in October was developed, I knew I was on board. This time I'm working on posting and tagging pictures to Family Search. And sometimes I'll write a post about the picture as part of my #52Stories project for 2020.

#52Stories is my attempt to write 52 stories from my life during the year 2020. At least one story a week, in no particular order, to remember and document some of the memories and moments of my life.

This photo of my father and his siblings was taken in June 1945 after the funeral of his mother, Martha Ada Young Scifres. If you look closely, you can see that the pictures of my Aunt Cordie on the left and my Aunt Estelle on the right were added to this family group after the original picture was taken. I think they were photo shopping before their time! Actually, the purpose of inserting those two pictures was to have a group photo of the adult children of my grandfather, Andrew T. Scifres, his first wife, Sarah Smith, and Martha Ada Young, my grandmother. The thing that always seemed a little eerie was that my Aunt Cordie (on the far left) died in 1942, three years before my grandmother's death when this picture was taken. Aunt Estelle, on the far right, was hospitalized at the time of her mother's funeral. 

And now it's time to identify my paternal aunts and uncles in this picture. 

Beginning on the front row, far left - Cordie Mae Scifres Poulter with her son Druman (1908-1942) (her picture was added posthumusly), Minnie Ada Scifres Crownover (1904-1999), Melisia Arebell Scifres Ryan (1895-1985), Mary Caroline Scifres Howard (1887-1973), Ellis Scifres (my dad, 1912-1980), Henry Elmer Scifres (1880-1955), and Estelle Scifres Duke (1917-1995) (Estelle was hospitalized at the time this photo was taken).

Back row, left to right - Perry Andrew Scifres (1893-1970), Hezakiah Alexander Scifres (1883-1972), William Lee Scifres (1900-1960), Elbert Scifres (1914-1994), James David Scifres (1902-1955), and Alfred Isaac Scifres (1905-2003).

Things I've noticed and remembered while identifying my relatives in this picture:

  • I come from a line of sturdy women. 
  • Uncle Henry, the oldest sibling, was the only one who never married.
  • My dad, Ellis, and his brothers, William Lee and Elbert were just recently returned from World War II. My dad was a prisoner of war in Germany (captured at the Battle of the Bulge) and arrived in Oklahoma in May after being liberated in April 1945. These three brothers survived service in the war, only to return home to the funerals of both parents in June 1945.
  • With twelve aunts and uncles, I was familiar with attending funerals from a young age.  

For more information about my grandfather, Andrew Thomas Scifres, see this post:

Grandpa Scifres - Farmer, Builder, Preacher, and Father to 16

For more information about my grandmother, Martha Ada Young (who died ten years before I was born), see this post:

Dear Grandma Scifres

The last photo of my grandparents, taken with six of their sixteen children:

Precious Photo 

As I've collected these posts about my grandparents written for my #52Stories project, I've realized that some of the photos haven't been saved to Family Search memories. So, my posting and tagging of photos for Family Search continues. I'm also planning to create a Facebook group for the descendants of my grandfather, Andrew Thomas Scifres.

Spiritual Journey Thursday & Sharing Our Stories

I'm working on a crazy quilt today, stitching together words to respond to two prompts from two of my favorite writing groups.

Margaret, our host for this week's Spiritual Journey Thursday, shared a quote from The Enneagram Institute. These words from her quote "...the brilliant light of Divine Love that creates and sustains the universe," led me to reflect on the 
beauty that surrounds us and these words from Job.

 7 But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee;

and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee:

8 Or speak to the earth and it shall teach thee: 

and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee.

9 Who knoweth not in all these 

that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this?

10 In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, 

and the breath of all mankind.

Job 12:7-10

My daily walks during this time of pandemic have kept me sane. As I walk, I reflect on the Lord who created this world and all that is in it. I seek solace from the natural world and it delivers.

Ruth, our host for Sharing Our Stories, reminded us that writers "decide to write about ordinary things. When this happens, the ordinary becomes magical."  
To savor the magic of story, link your post at Sharing Our Stories.

Here are some ordinary things that have shed brilliant light, created magic, and sustained me in recent days:

Capturing a heron in flight skimming over the blue water

A red and white boat pulling a much smaller red and white boat framed against a background of evergreens

On a stroll near the library, sunflowers against a weathered brown fence

Late season dahlias to gladden my heart on a nearby neighborhood loop

A careful removal of the spider web spun in front of daughter's front walk to one of the clear lights above the walk  

An afternoon inspection reveals the offending web reinstalled far above walking height and to the side of the front walk with spider in situ 

A video of grandson snuggled into bed reading a book to his baby sister

The charm of almost eighteen month grandson perched on a rock

The sheer exhilaration of a three year grandson speeding down the driveway in his wiggle car, feet waving in the air

Okay, I admit that a couple of these things might not have been ordinary (the heron and the barge), but I'm grateful for moments to reflect and be grateful. And even more grateful during difficult times for reassuring words from scripture to remind me that the soul of every living thing and the breath of all mankind are in His hand.